A Magical Meshuga Tour Guide

From the opening images of an eerily serene Barry Manilow and a pelvis-thrusting Neil Diamond, the album covers in "And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl" are so perfectly dated—and hilariously kitschy—that it's impossible to look away. The product of two men's obsessive record collecting, the book examines 20th-century Jewish history through the prism of old LPs: holiday albums ("The Moishe Oysher Chanukah Party"), comedy (Rodney Dangerfield's "The Loser"), Latin influence ("Bagels and Bongos"), even the sounds of war ("The Six Day War, Recorded Live!").

"And You Shall Know Us …" feels as if it's coated in irony—you can almost picture hipsters wearing T shirts emblazoned with these album covers—but the guys behind it are sincere. For authors Roger Bennett and Josh Kun, writing the book was a way to assuage their guilt over being so fuzzy on their family histories: a money-making excuse to explore their Jewish roots.

Bennett, who also wrote the coffee-table catnip "Camp Camp" and "Bar Mitzvah Disco," has created a cottage industry out of nostalgic, photo-heavy books that both celebrate and spoof a collective Jewish-American experience. "We're holding up a mirror to our gen- eration," he says, "and asking [readers] to examine who we are and how we came to be this way." The answer, it seems, involves some pretty courageous outfits.